Ethereum’s Founder Lays Out “Modest Proposal” At Devcon3

Ethereum's Founder

What is a ethereum’s founder, a 23-year-old hacker, supposed to do after he’s created a multibillion-dollar cryptocurrency?

In day one of Devcon3, Ethereum’s annual conference, Vitalik Buterin unveiled the future plans for this project. In what he would call a “modest proposal,” Buterin disclosed he has been quietly working on long-term plans for the future of the blockchain. It’s better described as a three-to-four year agenda for the technical development of ethereum.

At the heart of this concept is a far-down-the-road technical alteration named “sharding,” which was always expected to be in the protocols plans but at the conference, he proposed his most solid strategy for this technique yet.

The biggest questions/concerns among most developers, is the scalability of ethereum and this new “roadmap” addresses that and other issues yet to be solved. Buterin, also addressed the potential expensive storage costs that nodes might face, as the system expands. He added that to the list of things needing to be solved as his plans scale.

The talk was what most developers anticipated it to be but he encouraged them to think about these issues extensively.

“The amount of activity on the blockchain is orders of magnitude larger than it was just a couple of years ago,” he said, indicating the daily transaction rate now at 5,000 per day and the more than 20,000 nodes are now part of the ethereum network. With the growth it’s at, he believes it to be running at its limits currently.

Buterin stated:

“Scalability is probably problem number one … There’s a graveyard of systems that claim to solve the scalability problem but don’t. It’s a very significant and hard challenge. These are just known facts.”

All about the details

Buterin believes that the “sharding,” is the best solution for the scalability issues.

It’s an idea of partitioning data into subcategories so that each node on the network has to hold only a small amount of data at once. Rather, the overall vision is that the base math would hold the system accountable and if completely necessary, nodes could rely on other nodes for data.

Currently, researchers are exploring their options as to how to execute this efficiently, so that nodes aren’t sending false information back and forth.

Buterin’s proposition to these potential complications is aimed to solve scalability and governance.

He presented a rough outline as to what it would look like in his presentation, splitting the blockchain into two of these “shards.” The main shard is the first part and would contain ethereum’s current network and then the other shards are what he calls other “universes.”

Most importantly, he believes the separation of the blockchains would permit more aggressive changes on the smaller share and smaller more cautious changes of the main network. Ethereum still would hold its platform stability but the developers are able to test newer changes more quickly on the other shards.

Or as Buterin said, “Other universes where all this stuff we’ve been working on these last few years can be rolled out much much faster.”

Smaller changes

There were other changes in Buterin’s roadmap that he didn’t focus on as much, such as upgrades to the EVM and the potential of running ethereum in a web browser. The Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM), is the technology that compiles all the smart contract code and communicates it to all the nodes. eWASM, the very down-the-road process, would focus on the potential to eventually one day be able to run ethereum in a web browser and ensuring the EVM has been implemented in the other blockchains.

More information should be emerging on ethereum’s future, as the rest of the four-day conference is stacked with all-day presentations.

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